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DEP Hears Residents’ Comments

By Staff | Jul 7, 2010

Appalachia Midstream Services is currently constructing the Pleasants Compression Station on Pleasants/Macedonia Ridge in Marshall County, just across the Wetzel County border. A public meeting to hear comments on how the station will affect air quality was attended by about 40 people Thursday. While the station is not currently permitted, state law allows construction to proceed as long as it does not begin operation without a permit. (Photos by Amy Witschey)

The Department of Environmental Protection calls the construction of two natural gas compressor stations “standard” and “not significant” in terms of affected air quality.

However, approximately 40 people took the time to attend the public comment meeting Thursday held at the Silver Hill Fire Department. Several voiced concerns for the area’s air quality and approximately 20 signed a letter presented by Bill Hughes to be entered into the DEP’s comment record.

Janet Kostrej and Rose Baker said they have been having headaches in the past year-and-a-half. Kostrej lives close to the two-year-old Victory Compression Station on Greenfield Ridge. She said she has lived there for seven years, but has only had headaches since that station went into operation. Also, the headaches will stop if she spends time away from that area.

Baker also reported having headaches and said she could no longer keep the windows to her home open at night.

She wondered if air quality testing will be conducted before the compressors go online.

DEP Air Quality Director John Benedict, Permit Engineer Jerry Williams, Ray Renaud, and John Kostrej examine a map to locate the Victory Compression Station that Janet Kostrej claims causes her to have headaches.

DEP Air Quality Director John Benedict said ambient air quality monitoring is done throughout the state, but not here. They have devices monitoring for specific pollutants in certain areas known for pollution, primarily metropolitan areas.

“This is considered a minor source of air pollution,” said Benedict. “We don’t believe in this case-with both stations combined-we don’t consider them to be very significant.”

“It smells like crap,” she Kostrej.

“If it’s an oder issue, our inspectors are sent out to investigate,” said Jerry Williams, permit engineer.

Jeanne Chandler, DEP Environmental Resource Specialist, asked local residents to report any foul odors or visible releases that they believe could be harmful. “You are our air monitors,” she said.

Jerry Williams, permit engineer, explains the permitting process.

Ray Renaud noted that the Silver Hill area is not only an area of a lot of gas production activity, but it is downwind of chemical plants along the Ohio River.

Hughes began his comments by questioning the DEP’s decision to publish a legal notice about the permits in The Daily Echo, a newspaper based in Moundsville. “Does anyone here subscribe to The Daily Echo?” he asked, to which no one replied in the affirmative.

Benedict said it could be republished in the Wetzel Chronicle if needed.

Hughes also asked them to look into some numbers that he claimed were discrepancies in two different documents. While the two compression stations may look the same on paper, Williams said, “Everything is not created equal.” He would look into the matter and see why the numbers varied.

Two reports of best practices used in Texas were given by Hughes to the DEP representatives present. “We can learn from Texas,” said Hughes, who advocated implementing some “best practices” now. “We are growing significant pollution here. This Marcellus Shale is not going away.”

Bill Hughes presents his comments to the DEP.

He further offered some cautionary praise for the well developers. “They are good, honest, responsible people in general, but they will do what we allow them to do,” said Hughes, who pointed out that it is much like the driver who will exceed the speed limit if he thinks he can get away with it.

Finally, Hughes presented a letter signed by about 20 people that made four requests of the DEP:

-The existing draft permits do not become final until comprehensive modeling analysis be done on the impact of these gas operations on overall air quality.

-All current and future gas wells be considered as contiguous and adjacent.

-A Title V application be required.

-All of Chesapeake’s operations be aggregated as one source for PSD purposes.

Near the end of the meeting Jim Keeney lashed out at the DEP representatives present, saying he and everyone present didn’t think they were doing anything for the local residents. Nancy Ray disagreed, saying she does think the DEP is working through the complicated permitting process and she does not feel she is being taken advantage of by the gas companies.

The DEP will now prepare a response to comments documented and continue evaluating the permit request. “Unless something is really glaring, we probably won’t open it up for comments again,” said Chandler.

She said she would not expect a decision on the permits to be rendered until at least late August.

Appalachia Midstream Services has proposed to construct the Pleasants Compressor Station with 12 natural gas compressor engines, one diesel fired auxiliary generators, one natural gas fired emergency generator, three triethylene glycol (TEG) dehydration units, three 400-bbl pipeline fluids storage tanks, and miscellaneous associated equipment in Howard, Marshall County.

This station is located (from Silver Hill), up Macedonia Ridge to the Marshall County line where that road becomes Pleasants Ridge, then left onto Robinson Ridge.

Also, Appalachia Midstream Services has similarly proposed to construct the Miller Compressor Station with six natural gas compressor engines, three primary generators, three backup generators, two triethylene glycol (TEG) dehydration units, 10 400-bbl pipeline fluids storage tanks, two pipeline fluids/water storage tanks, a liquids stabilizer including one hot oil heater, one flare, and miscellaneous associated equipment in Bannen, Marshall County. This station will be three miles away at the north end of Johnson Ridge road which is a mile or two east of Silver Hill, right at the county line.

Work is currently underway for the Pleasants and Miller compression stations in question. While that may seem odd, since permits have not been issued, the state legislature passed a law a few years ago that companies can go ahead and start construction as long as there is no power hooked up to it and it isn’t operating.

“Especially in an industry such as this, compressor stations are pretty standard,” said Chandler, noting most compressor stations are built exactly the same way.